Four goals separated the Hingham High boys’ lacrosse team from entering the Division 2 East final last June unbeaten.
Instead, the Harbormen’s season ended with an 11-10 overtime loss to Medfield, the last of four one-goal losses for the 21-4 squad. Those defeats motivated all of the returning players during the offseason, and continue to drive a Hingham program trying to bring home its first state title since 2002.
Captain Jack Ullrich remembers the disappointment he felt walking off the field after the loss to Medfield. Hingham, the top seed, had tied the game with 24.7 seconds left in regulation before falling in OT. But Ullrich also remembers that feeling fade on his way home.
“The bus ride home was actually pretty uplifting,” he said.
Last year’s team was young, the players told each other, and this year’s team projected to be strong.
“This is ours next year,” Ullrich remembered thinking.
Within days, Ullrich and his teammates began their offseason workouts with big goals in mind. And there would be a void in goal, and on the attack, with the graduation of Tommy Bannan and David Freitas, respectively.
Fellow captain Pat Burke remembers starting workouts the day after the loss to Medfield. He also said there were more teammates with him than there were last offseason.
“It was real tough because we thought we could have had it last year,” he said. “Everyone just wants it so badly that we’ve been putting in the work.”
Nine months later, the Harbormen are confident in who they have. No player will replace all of Freitas’s production on offense, but coach John Todd thinks his group can make up the scoring collectively.
Captain Caleb Brodie will be tasked with initiating the offense. A Globe All-Scholastic midfielder, the Maryland recruit tallied 42 goals and 31 assists last season.
“He’s going to be a marked man,” said Todd. “He’s going to have longpoles on him, short sticks shutting him off, there are going to be a plethora of obstacles to overcome for him to be successful.”
Brodie also expects to make a difference on the sideline. He admitted to being quiet most of the time, but not during games.
“When I step on the field a little switch turns on, and I’m probably the loudest, most obnoxious kid out there,” he said.
During a Saturday morning scrimmage at Walpole, Brodie spent most of his time on the sideline coaching up his teammates.
“You can’t make it from there, I can’t make it from there,” he told a teammate, jogging off the field after a long shot strayed wide. “That’s too far out.”
“Maybe if you fake a shot then tuck it and cut,” Brodie continued, explaining with his hands the whole time, “then you can shoot, but that’s too far out.”
Burke along with fellow captain Matt Giarrusso will also be charged with sparking the offense. Burke was sidelined all fall after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, but Brodie says the attack has come back even better than before, particularly when he is on the run and shooting from the left side of his body.
Then there is Brodie’s brother, Jake.
A year ago, he showed an ability to finish his scoring chancs around the net. Now his older brother is excited to see what he can do as a sophomore.
“Everyone is expecting a lot of him,” Caleb Brodie said. “We are waiting to see what else he is capable of.”
In goal, 5-9 senior Matt Kellem and 6-2 junior Jack Santilli are both expected to see action. Each earned varsity minutes over the last two years, and the elder Brodie is hopeful their time behind Bannan will be useful.
“Everyone knows that Matt and Jack are both awesome,” he said. “And behind Tommy Bannan, they both got good tips from an awesome goalie, captain, and leader.”
In front of those goalies, the 6-2 Ullrich will be the defensive anchor. He recently committed to Penn, and the Ivy League, but Brodie said Ullrich was capable of playing at an even higher level.
“He is one of the best defensemen I’ve ever seen in my life,” Brodie said. “He should have been going to the Duke/Virginia/Maryland level within the first week of sophomore year.”
Brodie added that going against Ullrich in practice has made him a much better player.
“He’ll push you every single time,” Brodie said. “He’s kind of a lanky kid so he’s got a far wingspan, he plays basketball so he’s real agile, and his checks are ridiculous.”
Todd said that Ullrich also benefits from the increasingly fast-pace style of game being played in high school. This season, in a rule adopted by the MIAA from the national boys’ lacrosse rules committee, players will be substituted on the fly when balls go out of bounds, rather than teams being given time to substitute in such instances. Faster re-starts will allow Ullrich to showcase his versatility and ability to bring the ball up the field, according to the coach.
Players added that they think the rule change will benefit them as a team.
“We are a very up-tempo team,” Brodie said. “We like to get the ball and shove it down your throat and keep running, so the rule change helps us.”
Brodie hopes the slight change will be enough to help Hingham finally reach the top after coming so close so often. Two years before the loss to Medfield, the Harbormen lost to Concord-Carlisle in the Division 2 semifinals in triple-overtime.
Burke remembered watching past Hingham seasons end in disappointment going all the way back to seventh grade.
“We’ve always been right there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting over the hump.”
“We just need to be four goals better,” Giarrusso added.